Rescue teams in Christchurch are searching for any residents they fear may be trapped as much of the city remains without power and water following yesterday’s devastating earthquake.
Two people were seriously injured in the 7.0 magnitude quake, while another died of a heart attack during the disaster.
The rescue teams, which include search dogs, are working in Christchurch’s worst-affected areas as the city remains under a state of emergency.
New Zealand’s director of civil defence, John Hamilton, says the priority now is to make sure that people are safe.
“The issues today are still around access to drinking water and problems with sewerage,” he said.
“Electricity is slowly coming back on across the region … but the primary focus is on drinking water and then sewerage.”
Earlier residents took shelter as strong winds buffeted the city and there were fears that more buildings could collapse.
Heavy movers are attempting to clear the road of mud and silt after the quake caused sewerage and water pipes to burst and left the roads buckled and separated from the gutter.
But homes bore the biggest brunt, with about 350 houses severely damaged; residents have started moving out of their badly damaged houses.
About 250 residents spent the night in evacuation centres.
In Kaiapoi, on the outskirts of Christchurch, not only are there deep and wide cracks in the roads, some of the houses have been split in two.
Resident Steve Davies says he is moving out.
“[My house] was broken on two, three actually. With a huge 30 metre split on the floor. It’s a wreck as demolition dropped unfortunately on it,” he said.
Friends and relatives are visiting with fresh water and food, as residents like Robert Cooke push on without water and power.
“The whole [house] has been moved back and forwards, sideways about a metre,” he said.
The earthquake has also carved a large crevasse through the middle of Mr Cook’s back garden.
In the tiny cul-de-sac where he lives, another three homes have been condemned.
All along the road, trailers are in deeply cracked driveways loading the contents of family homes.
Damage to businesss
New Zealand’s Chamber of Commerce says the damage to business caused by the powerful earthquake is substantial.
Cordons are in place in some streets in Christchurch due to the sustained damage to buildings and the city is still under a state of emergency.
A curfew in Christchurch’s central business district was lifted this morning.
The chamber’s chief executive officer Peter Townsend says there is a huge amount of cleaning up to be done.
“The impact is huge, I’m in the central city as we speak and when you look around the devastation it’s amazing,” he said.
“Many businesses will not have accessed their businesses because they can’t. When they do eventually get in there they will find what I found when I went into the chamber of commerce.
“The place looks OK from the outside but has been completely trashed internally, so there is a huge amount of cleaning up to be done.”
Council workers are inspecting and tagging the city’s buildings – green if they are OK to go inside, red if they are not and yellow if they can have restricted use.
New Zealand’s ministry of education has confirmed that two schools will be closed tomorrow.